Though best known for My Fair Lady, the musical duo of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe also created one of the all-time great Broadway musicals: Camelot. Lifted high on a wave of soaring music and exquisite lyrics, audiences are compelled to witness the happy rise and tragic fall of King Arthur’s court. The first half of the play celebrates the courtship and marriage of Arthur and Guinevere. Inspired by his love for Guinevere and for justice, Arthur creates the Round Table and establishes a kingdom where might is to be used for right.
Sadly, Arthur’s dream is no sooner accomplished than his greatest knight, Lancelot, and his beloved queen fall into an adulterous affair. As a result, the Table cracks, the dream shatters, and England falls into civil war. But the play does not end there.
In the final scene, the despondent king comes upon a boy lurking in the shadows. When he questions the lad, he discovers that he has sought out Arthur in hope of becoming a knight. Arthur is shocked and asks the boy how he learned about the Round Table. Through stories, the boy tells him, stories about brave knights who fight evil and rescue fair damsels. In response, Arthur knights the boy and commissions him to stay behind the lines and survive the battle so that he may carry on the tales of Camelot.
I have always been intensely moved by that closing scene, for it enshrines a great truth about us and our world. Because we are noble creatures made in God’s image, we will continually strive to build Camelot. But because we have fallen into sin, our dreams will always fail in the end. When I took my teenaged children to see the play, I impressed this paradoxical truth upon them, challenging them to assist in the building ...1